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Sonnet 19 Shakespeare

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A sonnet like this is structurally very alike any other Shakespearean sonnet. It contains three quatrains each containing four lines followed by a couple containing two lines. The sonnets by Shakespeare were typically written in iambic pentameter - as is this. Having a sonnet written in iambic pentameter means that every single line consists of five unstressed syllables and five stressed syllables. This illustration should clarify what I mean. The syllables which is underlined is stressed and those who isn't is the unstressed syllables.

The rhyme scheme is typical as well. The last word in the first line rhymes with the last word in the third line. The last word in the second line rhymes with the last word in the fourth line and so on. The rhythm can be illustrated by this figure:


The sonnet is a declaration of the poet speaker's (Shakespeare) love to - I assume - another man. We know as a fact that many of Shakespeare's early sonnets was written to a man and in line 11 we get a sense that this sonnet is one of them. "Him in thy course untainted do allow". What this actually means in common English is that Shakespeare wishes the Time to allow him to remain untainted. Shakespeare refers to Time as a character with whom he entreats. In the first quatrain he mentions how Time will take its toll on every living object. He uses strong animals like the lion and the tiger to address the importance and cruelty of Time and even the long-lived mythological eagle like Phoenix to underline his point. Line 3 & 4: "Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws / And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;" The phoenix, which is well-known as a symbol of immortality, will fall as a consequence of the time going by, before rising from its own ashes. The tiger which is linked as a very furious and dangerous animal will fade and grow old at a time - as will the king of animals the lion. Time will blunt the claws of a lion, it will pluck the sharp teeth from a tiger and burn the body of a phoenix.

In lines 9-10 Shakespeare pleads Time not to carve or change his lover by age. "O, carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow / Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;" Even the pen which Time uses to change the look of his beloved one is old - it's antique and probably the same age as Time itself. The speaker wishes for his lover to remain untainted by age although everything around him will fade and shrivel.

In the couple Shakespeare realizes that he can't stop Time he tries to immortalize his lover throughout his sonnet. He cannot spare his loved one from the toll of Time, but he can make him stay young in his verse. "Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong / My love shall in my verse ever live young."

Shakespeare is doing the impossible



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